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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Why Tillerson's gone

President Trump's announcement that Mike Pompeo will replace Rex Tillerson, and Gina Haspel will succeed Pompeo as head of the CIA is the sort of revolving door at the White House that I expected at the White House.

Government moves at the pace of a snail on Quaaludes. This frustrates President Trump and other CEOs who are used to getting things done.

But Tillerson and Trump also turned out to be a bad fit. While the president expects his Cabinet members to go do their own thing, such leeway is impossible at State because foreign policy drives the modern presidency.

Also, Tillerson grew to dislike his boss. That he had a boss was a difficult adjustment after years of being the head of Exxon. That it was Donald Trump was a whole new set of problems.

The breaking point was this summer when Trump spoke to the Boy Scouts Jamboree. Trump treated it like a campaign rally, which rightly ticked off Tillerson, who is an Eagle Scout and a past president of the Boy Scouts of America.

The policy disagreements ultimately signaled the end.

While Trump announced he would meet with Kim Jong Un, Tillerson was off in Africa on a five-nation tour. The report was he fell ill on Saturday and skipped the day's events. 

Maybe Tillerson was too strong and too independent to be secretary of State.

At treasury, Steve Mnuchin does what he likes. While the economy is the most important piece of a peacetime presidency, the Treasury secretary's role is rather small. He signs dollar bills. His biggest decision is whether to go ahead with the Harriet Tubman $20.

But a secretary of State can shape or undermine foreign policy. Tillerson was doing the latter.

What Trump needed at State was someone less dynamic. Some president need colorful figures in their Cabinets. Bush had Rumsfeld and Cheney.

Trump needs beige people.


  1. So Surber, you no longer think Trump not surrounding himself with "yes" men (and women) is still a good thing?
    Does Tillerson think Trump is a moron? No. Tillerson would not have left Exxon to work for a moron. But the leak serves President Trump's purpose to have Kim Jong Un think there is a rift. It's called negotiation in business. Diplomacy in politics.
    Past secretaries of State focused on their travel and their political ambitions, leaving the running of the agency to a deputy. Tillerson is doing the whole job.
    Tillerson has his ducks in a row.

    1. Willie and Zippy did and I'll bet you thought that was fine.

      The issue here is that some disagreements are deal-breakers.


  2. Awesome choice in wanting Mike Pompeo. Does Trump know that his R House Intelligence Committee buddies said the CIA was all wrong in its Russian conclusions and that's why the Rs halted their investigation. Record staff turnover. How is Trump hiring the best and brightest again?

    1. You have to see them at work to find out if they are.

      Tillerson wasn't, apparently.

  3. Rex had a bad habit of contradicting his boss BEHIND his back after he had lost the policy argument in meetings. This is a not just stupid it is a character flaw. If he didn't like Trump's policies he should have QUIT last year. He is for the Iran Deal, against moving the Israeli embassy, he did not clean out State of the double dealing Obama-ites, he knocked the Korea talks when he did NOT have full information, he was supposed to help with the Putin thing with his supposedly close relationship with Putin and he did jack squat and it has gotten worse, he acted like he was doing Trump a favor and all he has done is enable the progressive swampers at State and tick his boss off. I think good riddance.

    1. I originally though naming Tillerson SOS was brilliant. But if you are not on the same page as your boss, good bye. If you can’t clean out the swamp, good bye.

  4. Don: Be sure to add Tillerson to the "Trump Effect" list along with (partial list) ....
    Rex Tillerson
    Gary Cohn
    Roberta Jacobson
    Hope Hicks
    Josh Raffel
    David Sorensen
    Rachel Brand
    Rob Porter
    Andrew McCabe
    Omarosa Manigault Newman
    Richard Cordray
    Tom Price
    Sebastian Gorka
    Steve Bannon
    Anthony Scaramucci
    Reince Priebus
    Michael Short
    Sean Spicer
    Walter Shaub
    Michael Dubk
    James Comey
    Katie Walsh
    Preet Bharara
    Michael Flynn
    Sally Yates
    Brett J. Talley

    1. So?

      It's how business works.

      It also is how Trump has done so much in a year.

    2. Trump has more staffers than the Cleveland Browns have quarterbacks. So? How is that working out for Surber's beloved Browns?

    3. We have one quarterback. Donald John Trump.

    4. I don't know about the rest of you, but I get very tired of people hiding behind "Anonymous" trolling this and other blogs - in this case, this a$$hole is doing a "Sub-Blog" here on Don's blog, spilling his/her swill and otherwise annoying a lot of unemployed electrons.

      Just ignore the schmuck and maybe 'he' can get 'her' (ain't I PC ! ?) own blog or at least use a name - if this jerk had enough intelligence he'd have invented a name without my having to suggest it.

    5. Bravo, Erik! Bravo. I think Big D oughta contact his service provider and demand that commenters have identities. It's like, when you enter a bracket in The Tournament, you can't do it as Anonymous, right?

    6. Some of us do sign our comments.

      -Mikey NTH

  5. Secretary Tillerson turned out to have views more in keeping with the Obama administration and appeared to be a leftie.

  6. President Trump IS U.S. foreign policy. Anyone who doesn't want to follow his lead, in agreement with him or not, should be immediately canned. That goes especially for any "career" diplomats, and all Obama appointee holdovers should have been shown the door long ago. - Elric

  7. I think, because of his oil dealings, he was instrumental in the Saudi "party" and outing of Qatar, which was a yuge deal, but beyond that it hasn't been a good fit for a lot of policies. So, (again) a specialist was used, then sent out to resume retirement.

    If you wanted to focus on Thug States, wouldn't you want a guy that has been a real spook for a year, has intel congressional background, and brought with him an overflowing bag of dirt on everyone?

    I thought so.

  8. I still like Trump but he needs to see the value of “resignations” versus abrupt firings. Why were not letters of resignations required at the outset of appointments? “Accept” them when it’s necessary.

  9. I'm not sanguine about this, because I liked the creative tension, but ...

    Trump and Mattis are not always on the same page, but you never hear about bellyaching from Mattis. Same with the Munchkin (or however the hell you spell his name) at Treasury. They are independent and you never hear the bellyaching in either direction.

    Tillerson was a brilliant hire. Sorry that it didn't work out in practice. Out-of-the-box thinking doesn't always. Mattis at Defense and the Munchkin at Treasury do.

    Also disappointed that Tillerson didn't reign in the anti-Trumpers in the State Dept bureaucracy who were actively undermining the president. I would have liked to see Tillerson put some bureaucrat heads on pikes outside Foggy Bottom. Again, at the Pentagon and Treasury we never hear about bureaucratic whining like we did at State.

    So, on balance, this was a good hire that turned out to be a good fire, I guess.

  10. Good comments already posted here, esp. by Anon @10:24 and Anon @12:22, but there's likely much more to this than we can know...until the NYT finds an insider who is willing to leak the gossip. I suspect the timing of this spring White House cleaning is driven by the upcoming mid-term elections, i.e., get it done now before campaigning starts in earnest. Despite what the pundits are saying, the mid-term election will be all about Trump, whether the nation approves of his leadership and policies, so better for PDJT to get his team set now the way he wants in case the Dems take the Senate. Pompeo does seem like he's a better fit for Trump than Rex. In addition, Chief of Staff Kelly and son-in-law Kushner, the shadow SoS, probably had some role in Rex's firing, which we can only guess at this point. It certainly wouldn't surprise me to learn the two of them went beyond giving advice and actively campaigned for Rex's removal. Perhaps Kushner resented Rex as too much of a rival for the president's attention from his position atop the DoS. Or maybe Kelly, a stickler for command structure, was frustrated that Rex couldn't or wouldn't get his ducks in a row at State. All will be revealed in due time by some WH leaker to the NYT.....

  11. Are "all the best people" the one's Trump has appointed that leave the sinking ship? What a dumpster fire.

    Tillerson had Trump's number when he called him a moron. Tillerson actually was a CEO, answerable to a board and stock holders. Trump's business experience is as a corrupt, poorly run family business leader, accountable only to his Russian Oligarch patrons.

  12. You're fired. This is how Mr. T was, is, and will always be. If you don't like it, vote for Hillary-falling-down-the-stairs-twice. Haha.

  13. Marching Orders in any Hierarchical Organization

    (I) One person sets policy.
    (II)) That person is not you.
    (III) If there is any confusion, see (I), supra.

    So I have heard that this is why Tillerson is gone.

    -Mikey NTH

  14. Mikey is correct